"That was our mission, to stop the war." A Quick Q&A with #WriterPrompt winner Akomolafe Kayode.


August 6, 1945. 2:15 AM, Enola Gay flew steadily into the skies bound for Hiroshima, Japan. I, Sergeant Joseph Stiborik was among the crew as a Radar Operator. The Japanese, after the Germans were defeated, refused to surrender to the Allied forces and the Second World War was bent on lasting for a few more years. That was our mission, to stop the war.

Earlier that morning in my excitement to be enlisted among the crew on a special mission, I had asked Captain Theodore, ‘What are we carrying?’

‘What’s your business Sergeant?’ he asked lighting a cigarette, puffing smoke into the cold morning, ‘Our mission is not about what we are carrying, it’s about what we are dropping.’As he walked away to board the plane, he turned, smiled and muttered, ‘Little boy.’

I wasn’t sure if he was referring to what we were carrying on the plane or referring to me as a little boy. Even though I was young, my small stature easily gave me away.

‘Ready for this, boys?’ Major Thomas Freebie, the bombardier said as he pushed the button and dropped the bomb. Although we nodded yes in affirmation, when Little Boy hit Hiroshima and sent off a huge puff of boiling mushroom cloud, smoke and debris… only then did I realize there was nothing little about the boy that destroyed so many men in mere seconds. None of us knew it wasn’t the usual bomb.

As we flew back to base, stunned in silence, amidst the shrill rustling of cold air, the only voice I heard was that of Lewis saying, ‘My God, what have we done.’

#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page, although it is currently on hiatus. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. Akomolafe's story of a naive WWII soldier rose to the top in this bout.


How did writing enter your life?

Before the age of ten, I developed a love for art and reading and admired the likes of Wole Soyinka (even though I found it hard to comprehend his writing at the time.) My writing didn't fully take off until my junior days in secondary school after I was inspired by a friend, David Meres, who taught me to write poetry. Ever since I fell in love with writing.  I discovered I had an inborn ability to tell stories but needed to understand the craft. 


What are your favourite themes to write about and why?

All forms of writing have appealed to me as I've written a couple of plays, drama, novels (unpublished), movie scripts, short fiction, and short stories (which have become my strongest form of writing.) My favourite themes are largely around women, the girl child, family and morality. 


Can you tell us a little about the process you went through with your flash fiction story 'Hiroshima' that made you the winner of #WriterPrompt 22.

Hiroshima was a whole new phase of writing for me. I had a very limited knowledge of the people, places and event I wanted to write about, so I spent some time reading about the Second World War and the events of Hiroshima and the military personnel and tried my best to relive their lives through my story. Participating in #WriterPrompt over time has helped me know how to write, explore themes better. The contributions of other writers as well as the organisers of #WriterPrompt have helped to sharpen my skills and crowned me a winner. In the end, 'we' won. 


Akomolafe Bankole Kayode is a young aspiring Nigerian writer who loves to write short stories and poetry. He won the MNS (Mynaijastories) short story competition with his story, “The first time I did it.”  His poem, “My Hanbok” was nominated for an award in the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Fiesta 2016 and his flash fiction, "A soldier's last letter" was shortlisted for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Competition, 2016. His first novel, a collection of short stories is slated for publication later this year.  Some of his works have appeared in Praxis Magazine. He spends his time reading and writing and hopes to impact the world through his works.

"The intense heat in the eyes of onlookers figuratively set the girl ablaze..."A Q & A with #WriterPrompt Winner Lydia Durunguma.

The Striped Girl

There had never been a colder morning than that in Gembu.

The oxygen in the air was replaced with ululation and hissing from parched lips; red, immovable eyes peered through windows.

“This is what the gods vomited when they choked on an unpleasant food offering."

“The womb that bore her was rotten!"

“I’m sure her mother slept with a black and a white man at the same time; sacrilege!”

Spit flew from mouths to ground, shoulders shrugged, thumbs and middle fingers snapped. Bent heads shook.

The fusion of the wailing of the womb that had borne her, the incantation of the priest and the chants of the young bare-chested men dreamed up a dreadful symphony. It was her sixteenth birthday and she was still abnormal, thus she had to be returned to the ones who had given her to them.

She was stripped; arms and feet bound.

Vivid cinnamon-coloured eyes; the brown stripes on her yellowish-white skin were like the stripes of a tiger. Those stripes; a work of art mystifying a lost and perhaps beautiful soul, creating wonder in minds only as deep as water puddles.

She was drenched in kerosene, a match was lit and the flame that ensued licked every inch of under-appreciated art.

I began to choke; no, not from the flame’s fume but from guilt; guilt that I let these people bathe in their ocean of ignorance.

But, what was a white man going to tell them about vitiligo that they wanted to hear?

#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. The guest judge for this competition was author and illustrator Alex Latimer, he had the following to say about his choice of winner,


"I enjoyed every single one of the stories - they all have something quite compelling about them. Choosing a winner is never easy, but I have settled on Lydia Durunguma's story. In any piece this short, each word has to work hard and Lydia has done this very well. The tension starts right from the beginning, then on top of that she builds mystery and she ties it all together in the final sentence with a satisfying reveal which changes the way you understand the story as a whole. Woven through all of that is strong characterization and setting."


Hi Lydia! Congratulations on winning this #WriterPrompt! The competition was stiff, and we had a number of really imaginative interpretations of our tiger image. Tell us a little bit about yours. What inspired you to go into the direction of the vitiligo disease?

LYDIA: When I first saw the theme picture for this prompt, I was short of ideas on how to interpret it. I didn’t want to write a clichéd interpretation of a tiger which was, to me, writing about its strength and wildness, so I decided not to write and just read the other stories. The inspiration eventually hit me the next day when I saw a girl at the market with this disease; the intense heat in the eyes of onlookers figuratively set the girl ablaze. I thought she was beautiful but many didn’t. I remember the discoloration on her skin drove my thoughts to this prompt’s theme and there you have it.


This #WriterPrompt was judged by SSDA shortlister, Alex Latimer. Tell us a bit about your experience with our judge and hosts and what it’s like being critiqued by your peers so openly.

LYDIA: It feels really nice to have your piece appreciated by an amazing storyteller. I’m grateful for this platform, one where you can read other stories and have your story read and critiqued as well. Being critiqued by my own peers is also a reminder, lest I forget, that there are still so many things I’m yet to learn in the art of storytelling.


Some of our previous winners have said that a few ideas came to mind when participating in certain #WriterPrompts. Did you have a few back-up ideas or did you just go with the first idea which came to mind and made it work? Tell us about your process in crafting your stories.

LYDIA: I had no back-up ideas, but I also didn’t go with the first idea that came to mind. The process of crafting my stories; when my mind is sapped of inspiration, the first thing I do is eat. If that doesn’t work, which is a big ‘if,’ I take a stroll or I read a book or a short story. I used to think that reading what other writers have to say when I am stuck would inadvertently lead to subtle plagiarising but it doesn’t. What it does is take me to a place where my stunted creativity has room to thrive.


Lydia Durunguma is a creative writer; a native of Imo state, Nigeria. She is inspired by food and people. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.


Interview by Jason Mykl Snyman

#WriteTips: The Filmmaker and The Memoirist

With the theme for the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize announced, we thought it would be a perfect time to share with you, some of the latest #WriteTips we've gathered. These two writers come from different literary backgrounds but all their tips really get to the heart of writing your perfect piece - whatever it may be.


Umar Turaki

  1.  A story is a living thing. There is a way it desires to be. Listen closely and it will tell you. The art of hearing what a story wants to be could be called instinct.
  2. Do you remember the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy is faced with a great chasm and the only way to cross it is to step out in faith into thin air? That’s writing. Sometimes you don’t need all the answers. Most times, it’s enough to grope your way through the dark until you reach your destination.
  3. Second-guess everything you put down. And never stop. It keeps you grounded and alert.



Susan Newham-Blake

1. I find the only way I can keep on writing is if I remind myself I’m simply telling a story. I focus on getting it down on paper. You can always go back and create the perfect sentence, bring in elements to help with characterisation. So I try not to worry about perfection until after the story is down.

2. Don’t write for anybody or anyone but yourself. Write to get your unique story down on paper, not because you want to get published, be famous, impress your friends. In other words, do it for yourself and no one else and this might alleviate some of the self doubt.

3. If you want to be a better writer, you need to put in the hours. Don’t think about writing the perfect novel or short story. Think of every word you put down on paper as practice. I often think of Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of putting in the 10 000 hours. You need to write for 10 000 hours before you’re going to write that masterpiece!